White Wine Poached Shrimp

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Selim has been perfecting this dish for months now. And by perfecting, I mean tweaking it every single time he makes it, with each iteration a smidge more delicious than the last, even though the very first attempt was excellent! It all started one time when we had a left-over half bottle of wine and a ‘Manager’s Special’ of shrimp that needed to be eaten. From there, this has become one of our favorite dishes. He’s definitely figured out how to delicately poach the shrimp, while simultaneously achieving a beautiful flavor! Everyone loves shrimp, but let’s not lie here, the poaching liquid is what you want. There is no shame in drinking it. On that note – you want to use a halfway decent bottle of wine because the wine basically is your dish. I’m not saying spend $40, but take it a notch up from the Two-Buck Chuck.

This dish feels very elegant and complex, but it actually isn’t hard to make at all. As we’ve shared it, it is simply the shrimp and the poaching liquid, but you can take it a few different directions. Frequently, we just eat it in a bowl, allowing us to slurp up all of the delicious poaching liquid unencumbered. You can also serve it on top of pasta (or another starch, like rice), which we also do frequently (and as you see in our pictures from tonight), or with some bread to soak up the liquid.

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White Wine Poached Shrimp

Ingredients: 
  • 3 strips of bacon, sliced into lardons
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (750mL) bottle dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Asiago (or other hard) cheese, thinly grated
  • 1 lb fresh raw shrimp
Instructions: 
  1. Peel and de-vein the shrimp if not already done for you.
  2. Cook the bacon in a large pan over medium heat until the fat is released and bacon is crispy. Then remove the bacon to the side.
  3. Add the onion to the bacon fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook just another 1-2 minutes. Don’t brown.
  4. Pour the bottle of wine into the pan. Add the red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, tasting to see that the alcohol has cooked off.
  5. Slowly sprinkle in the cheese, stirring as you go.
  6. Add the shrimp to the pan. Cover and cook, keeping the liquid at a slight simmer. Watch closely, removing from heat when the shrimp turn pink. This will only take 2-3 minutes!
  7. Serve with the reserved bacon bits on top. You also might want to consider topping with a little more Asiago!
Serves 3-4

Baked Beef Empanadas

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Just a few weeks ago, we shared our Farewell Columbia homage to our food faves from our home for the past three-ish years. One of Ally’s favorite things to do in Columbia was to walk up and down the market, pretending like she might branch out, but then settle back on her favorite empanadas for brunch. Can’t blame her! We’ve been a little apprehensive to make empanadas at home for fear we won’t do them justice. But since we have time off between graduation and starting our new jobs, we’ve promised ourselves that we would attempt some of the more intimidating/time-consuming/difficult dishes that we’ve been too afraid to try! Fingers crossed 🤞🏽

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A lot of time when we attempt a recipe from a cuisine that we didn’t grow up cooking (ie: most of them), we struggle to find the authentic recipe. We don’t want to misrepresent anything on here. In standard fashion, we spent a lot of time scouring the internet for the perfect empanada dough recipe. For a basic empanada dough for baking, it seems that the biggest controversy is whether or not to use an egg in the dough. We decided to try no egg dough today. We mostly leaned on one of Ally’s favorite sites, Global Table Adventure, for our dough recipe and inspiration for the empanadas themselves. Her video of repulgue-ing the dough edges was really helpful! While Sasha made empanadas for her Argentina meal, we didn’t add the more traditional Argentine ingredients (hard-boiled egg, olives) to ours tonight – we wanted to start our homemade empanada adventure with a basic recipe. We also consulted an article – Common Empanada Mistakes – for help too!

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Baked Beef Empanadas

(Roughly adapted from Global Table Adventure)
Ingredients:
  • Dough
    • 4 cups AP flour
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 16 tbsp (2 stick) cold butter
    • 1 – 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Filling
    • 1 tbsp neutral oil
    • 1 small onion, minced
    • 6 cloves garlic
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (omit for those who can’t take the heat)
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 lb ground beef
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the dough first. Place the butter in the freezer for ~20 minutes prior to getting started.
    • Sift the salt into the flour.
    • Grate the cold butter into the flour.
    • Slowly stir the water into the mixture until a shaggy mixture forms. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and smush into a ball with your hands. (You don’t need to knead this dough!)
    • Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Once warm, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. The add the tomato paste and the herbs & spices. Cook another minute.
  4. Now add the meat to the pan. Break up into small pieces and cook until almost completely done.
  5. Refrigerate the filling while rolling out and cutting the dough. The filling should be cool before placing on the dough.
  6. Remove your dough from the fridge. Roll out into two circles, an 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a mold (or a cup or a bowl), cut out rounds of dough.
  7. Place a small dollop of meat into the center. Don’t overfill! Crimp the edges together to seal. (Check out the link in our post above or YouTube “repulgue” to get visual hints how to make it pretty!)
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
*Side note: these can be frozen prior to baking. They then can be baked from frozen, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Makes ~ 2 dozen – this obviously depends on the size you decide to make!

Summer Turkey Kofte

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We’ve chatted about köfte here before (see our post for Sultan Selim Kofte). Usually they are made from lamb and/or beef, but really köfte can be anything. The origin of the word is from the classic Persian, meaning “to pound” or “to grind.” This obviously describes the ground meat, but really works for many other ingredients. We’re having steaks tomorrow night (a new attempt – in the cast iron skillet, on the grill!) and didn’t want red meat two nights in a row, so we thought we’d try our hand at some white meat köftes.

With the lighter turkey and the addition of the cilantro, these were a perfect summer dinner. They’re so flavorful, that when I was eating them it actually took me a minute to remember that they were turkey instead of a heartier meat. We grilled ours for ultimate summer-ness, but they would work well in a pan or under a broiler I suspect. There is a lot of delicious juice, so you want something to soak it all up. We had ours with flatbread, which was perfect for mopping up the plate, but rice or couscous would be great too.

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Side note: You may notice in our pictures that we skewered ours on the grill. This is definitely unnecessary and probably hurt us a little bit. Next time I’ll put them directly on the grill. 

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Blue Ridge Mountain sunsets just make dinner that much better!

Summer Turkey Kofte

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground turkey (85/15)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Combine all of the ingredients together. Can be done ahead of time and refrigerated for enhanced flavor melding.
  2. Get you grill ready or place a grill pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Form oblong köftes. Grill over medium-high heat for just 3-4 minutes on each side.
  4. Serve with rice or flatbread. Hummus, veggies, feta, and/or tzatziki would go well too!
Serves 3-4

Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle

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Awhile back, I (probably via Pinterest let’s be honest) came across Seasons & Suppers. This food blog, or “online food and cooking diary,” as its author describes it, is honestly what I aspire for our blog to be. First off, we like to think of our site as our own personal culinary diary as well. Secondly, her photography is gorgeous. Gorgeous is an understatement. Breathtaking. Spectacular. Drool-inducing. Stunning. Insert whatever superlative adjective you prefer. And all of the recipes I see on the site, I immediately want to make. Somehow, Jennifer (the author) produces dishes that are homey and down-to-earth, without “fancy” ingredients or techniques, yet every dish seems fit to serve the Queen of England. I distinctly remember the day I discovered the site. I just kept clicking and pinning, clicking and pinning. I wanted to save ALL of the recipes to attempt myself! With all of this being said, this is the first recipe of hers we’ve attempted. Why? I don’t know, but I suspect that deep in the recesses of my brain I don’t want to see my results side by side with hers.

When we decided to have pasta for dinner tonight, I immediately thought of this recipe I’d seen from Seasons & Suppers a few weeks back – Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Prosciutto and Pea Shoots. How perfect for spring! Ricotta provides for a lighter sauce than many other pasta dishes (like our favorite Homemade Pasta Carbonara) and the lemon certainly adds spring-like brightness. We did make a few changes for our version, namely the addition of basil and homemade pasta, but what a beautiful inspiration! One tip: eat immediately after serving. As the ricotta cools, it becomes less sauce-like. It tastes delicious either way.

In conclusion? Go check out Seasons & Suppers for beautiful food photography and a plethora of recipes. And then try this pasta dish, whether her version or ours!

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Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle

(Adapted from Seasons & Suppers, clearly)
Ingredients: 
  • Pasta
    • 1 1/3 cup AP flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
  • Sauce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1 1/2 cups ricotta
    • 2 lemons, zested & juiced
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • Pinch of salt
    • 6+ slices of prosciutto, torn
    • Fresh basil
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare pasta as described in Our How To Make Basic Pasta.
  2. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model) or do it by hand. Slice into ~ 1/2 inch ribbons. Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  3. Meanwhile, in a deep sauté pan, or a sauteuse pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Once hot, add the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Mix together the ricotta, 1/3 cup of lemon juice & 2 tbsp zest, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Pour into the pan with the shallots. Turn heat down to low.
  5. When ready to cook the pasta, bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally. Cook pasta for just 2 minutes, until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add pappardelle to the pan with the ricotta sauce and toss well. Thin the sauce as desired with reserved pasta water (we did not use any). You may increase the heat here if your sauce isn’t quite hot, but do so gently.
  7. Once the sauce is warmed to your liking, serve the pasta into bowls and top with torn prosciutto, basil, a pinch of salt, and more fresh pepper if you desire.
Serves 2-4

Ropa Vieja

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As we’ve mentioned a million times, we use this blog as a vehicle to get us to branch out and try different dishes we wouldn’t have otherwise thought to make. I was browsing our recent creations recently and was struck by the thought that we’ve had a little bit of a geographic bias. Our branching out has ventured into the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and North Africa quite a bit… not surprising, given that we both really love the food and flavors of that region. But maybe we’re inadvertently limiting the scope of our branching…? I don’t know why, but after coming to this realization, I immediately settled on Cuban food for our next adventure.

After drooling over pictures of Cuban sandwiches for a little while, I landed on a recipe for Ropa Vieja, which many claim as the national dish of Cuba. If you speak Spanish, you may note that “ropa vieja” translates to “old clothes,” which is not the most appetizing name I can think of personally, but is evocative of the legend behind the dish. The story goes that an impoverished old man had family coming over for dinner. He had nothing to serve them, so he shredded and stewed some old clothes. After praying over his creation and cooking with so much love for his family, he found that he had a delicious stew to serve, though the shreds of meat still resembled his old clothes. As best my internet sleuthing can determine, the recipe came to Cuba and the greater Caribbean via Spanish settlers, with its roots hundreds of years ago in Spanish Sephardic Jewish cuisine and their home in the Canary Islands. Tweaks occurred in the ensuing years, and this dish is considered to be quintessentially Caribbean and Cuban.

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Ropa vieja is traditional served in Cuba with rice and black beans, so of course we had to make some Cuban black beans as well! This quick version uses canned beans, so they’re super easy to throw together. And its easy to see why the Cuban serve them in combination… delicious! After serving the ropa vieja on top of the rice, with the beans on the side, we realized that it was even better all stirred together! So go ahead and make a big messy plate – this dish isn’t on your table for its looks, that’s for sure!

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Ropa Vieja

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • ~ 1 1/2 lb flank steak, brisket, or chuck roast (the chuck roast will cook the fastest)
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup sliced green Spanish olives
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Cilantro, for garnish
Instructions: 
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the beef on both sides with salt & pepper. Once warmed, sear the beef on all sides briefly (~3-4 minutes). Remove to the side.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Stir to coat with remaining oil and again season with salt & some fresh ground black pepper. Cook until soft and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the dish with the wine. Stir in the spices and brown sugar.
  4. Return the beef to the dish, along with the pureed tomatoes. Nestle the bay leaves into the liquid. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Braise the beef for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. You want to see a slight simmer if you peek under the lid.
  5. Uncover, skim off any fat on the top, and raise the heat so the liquid is simmering fairly vigorously. Shred the beef between two forks.
  6. Stir in the olives and vinegar. Cook at the simmer for just an additional 15 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed – we added a fair bit.
  7. Serve with rice and black beans, with a little cilantro on top.
Serves 4-6

Tangy Rice Pot with Chicken and Green Beans

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Let’s talk about sumac. In the US, it’s not a very common ingredient. I’m going to be 100% honest with you, internet… When I first saw a recipe with sumac as an ingredient, I immediately though about poison sumac, the third in the itchy trifecta of poisons ivy, oak, and sumac. Why would anyone want to eat that?? No one wants to and turns out, no one is. Looking into it, I learned that the sumac spice is made of ground Rhus coriaria berries, one of several dozen of plants in that genus. Poison sumac on the other hand is officially Toxicodendron vernix, but it used to be known as Rhus vernix! Hence the colloquial name that matches the other sumacs.

I came to realize that I’ve had sumac many times before, in restaurants and in pre-made spices mixes like za’atar. I just didn’t know what it was! When we started cooking more Turkish dishes since we started this blog, the lack of sumac in my spice cabinet became more noticeable. {Check out our sumac tag for other recipes we’ve made featuring this spice!} It took us a little while to find some, but check out your nearest Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocer. Now that I’m an experienced sumac consumer, I want to put it on everything! I mean seriously, I have no idea why this spice hasn’t crossed over into mainstream American kitchens yet… It is delicious and can add such a unique flavor to many different dishes. I made up this dinner around the leftover lemon I had in the fridge from making Lemon-Lime Ricotta Cookies, and I thought I’d combine tang with tang and add the sumac. It worked well without being too sour or overpowering. It’s a perfect one pot dish for a weeknight, with fairly minimal hands-on cooking time.

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Tangy Rice Pot with Chicken & Green Beans

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp+ neutral oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup rice, uncooked
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (~3 tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ~1lb fresh green beans, snapped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Select a saute pan with tall sizes (alternatively, a dutch oven would work). Heat the oil over medium.
  2. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with salt & pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan. Cook for just 3-4 minutes, reducing the translucency, and then remove to the side. (The chicken will not be cooked all the way at this point.)
  3. Add a bit more oil if needed, then cook the garlic and onions. Season with some more pepper. Cook until fragrant and softened, ~5 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the rice, stock, spices, and lemon juice. Stir. Make sure rice is submerged in the liquid.
  5. Top with the green beans, pushing them down into the liquid gently. The green beans do not have to be completely submerged.
  6. Bring to a boil and then immediately lower heat to low. Cover, ensuring that the liquid is only lightly simmering.
  7. Cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Roughly halfway through, stir and then re-cover.
  8. Watch closely towards the end. Depending on your variety of rice, you may need a little more liquid or a little more or less cooking time.
  9. Season with additional salt as need. Ours definitely needed it, but we also used salt-free chicken stock.
Serves 4.

Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

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Happy first day of spring! Or if you’re of Persian descent, Happy Nowruz! Nowruz literally translates to “new day” and is the name for the Persian new year, which occurs on the vernal (spring) equinox. The holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and is a holy day from the Zoroastrian tradition, though it is a completely secular celebration for most, especially in the modern day. It has been a long-standing national holiday in Iran and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Caucasian and central Asian countries have declared it a national holiday for themselves as well. The holiday welcomes spring with a variety of traditions. Spring cleaning, visiting friends and family, a Santa Claus-like figure called Amu Nowruz with gifts for children, an elaborate table setting called haft seen, other festive decorations, and of course, eating are all parts of the traditional celebration.

This soup isn’t a traditional Nowruz dish, but most of those gorgeous dinners and sweets involve a little more time than we have on this weekday evening! Actually, I’ve found several variations of my source recipe around the internet – apparently they’re attempts to copycat a beloved soup at a Persian restaurant in Chicago called Reza’s. So we’ll consider this soup a stepping stone towards a real Nowruz celebration one of these years coming up! (I really wanted to make ash-e reshteh, but didn’t have all of the ingredients. It seemed like a cop out to fudge on the ingredients of the traditional Nowruz first night soup, so we bailed on that idea. Maybe next year!) We made another lentil soup recently (Turkish Red Lentil Soup), and while there are some similarities to this one, the flavors end being totally different! This soup is hearty and filling (thanks lentils!), but seems like a perfect welcome to spring with its bright and tangy flavors. Consider it the perfect culinary bridge between winter (warm, hearty) and spring (bright flavors)!

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Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes (or a 15oz can crushed tomatoes)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp (+) sumac
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: yogurt, feta cheese, lime wedges
Instructions:
  1. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Season with pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes, chop quarter them and blitz them in a food processor. Then add the tomatoes, along with the stock, herbs, and spices (except for the fresh parsley).
  3. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes.
  4. Now add the lentils and return to a simmer for another 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked.
  5. Add the chopped parsley and cook for just another few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Serve with additional sumac, parsley, or a squeeze of lime on top if you like. A dollop of yogurt or a few chunks of feta would also be delicious!
Serves 4 as an entree; ~6-8 as a starter or side